Private collection, Belgium
The panel is inscribed on the verso by the artist’s son who confirms that it was painted by his mother, Henriëtte Ronner-Knip.
The artist was born Henriëtte Knip on May 31, 1821 in Amsterdam into an artistic family. Her father, Josephus Augustus Knip (1777-1847) was a landscape painter and would become her artistic tutor. Henriëtte showed a talent for drawing at an early age and began her artistic education under her father’s guidance at age eleven. She underwent a rigorous training regimen in her father’s studio, often remaining at her easel nearly from sunrise to sunset.
Henriëtte first exhibited her work at the annual art exhibition in Düsseldorf and became a regular contributor to exhibitions in Germany and Holland. By the age eighteen she had sold a large number of popular subjects that included pastoral landscapes, castles, farms, genres scenes, still lifes and portraits. She favored animal subjects, and gradually began painting more images of cows, sheep, horses, and birds. Around 1845 Henriëtte dedicated her works to depictions of dogs, typically hunting dogs in forests and heath countryside, which earned her many commissions.
In 1850 she married Teico Ronner, thereafter began using the name of Henriëtte Ronner-Knip. That same year, they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where she was to give birth to six children (two of them would become painters: Alfred Ronner 1852-1901, and Alice Ronner, 1857-1906), and to spend the rest of her life. Around 1870, she shifted her attention from painting dogs to almost exclusively cats, becoming fascinated with the subject when a cat found its way into her home. She began to observe and study their attitudes, movements, and expressions, which she remarkably captured in her canvases. Because cats were increasingly kept as house-pets, this subject became particularly popular among the art-buying urban middle class.
During her illustrious career, Henriëtte Ronner-Knip exhibited widely and received numerous prestigious awards and honors in cities all across Europe. Most notably, she was awarded the Cross of the Order of Leopold II King of Belgium (Chevalier d’Lordre de Léopold) in 1887, a rare honor for a woman to receive, and in 1909 she became Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau, Netherlands. Her works are held in the collections of several museums including the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Dordrechts Museum, Dordecht; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels.
Our delightful painting features two small kittens portrayed against a soothing background of varying neutral tones. A marmalade-colored kitten is curled up in deep repose, his creamy white face, underside and paws portrayed so expertly it’s hard to resist touching them. His brown tabby companion sweetly watches him sleep from above, or perhaps more likely, contemplates this golden opportunity to pounce. Every detail is precise and precious, from the warm pink of their noses and paw pads to the combination of thick paint and feathery brushstrokes that perfectly captures the downy softness of kitten fur. Her cat subjects are full of character and this is no exception.